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Singer Kathleen Edwards performs at Royal Ottawa’s record-breaking Inspiration Awards Gala

Black-tie dinner raises $521K for mental health research and care, auctions off two private concerts with Edwards.

The 16th Annual Inspiration Awards Gala for the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health offered up a bit of magic, a lot of hope and a very special performance from Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Kathleen Edwards.

The Ottawa-based artist took to the stage Friday night with her acoustic guitar to croon an old Joni Mitchell tune, in front of a black-tie crowd of more than 550 business people and community leaders. For her, the cause of mental illness is deeply personal; she was diagnosed with a mood disorder in 2012, the same year she released her last album.

“There is no greater relief that I can think of in my entire life than having a doctor say, ‘I believe you have clinical depression and I’d like to prescribe to you a medication that might help you’,” she told everyone in the Infinity Convention Centre ballroom, which was beautifully lit up in colourful but calming hues. “Within several weeks, I was feeling like there was a piece of me that came back into the universe.

“I know first-hand the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and they are very powerful things that disengage any rational and any true feeling you know about yourself.”

The gala, once again presented by TD Bank Group, was wildly successful. It raised a record-breaking $521,724 for mental health research and care at The Royal Ottawa. There were also some amazing personal stories shared through the presentation of six awards to those who have overcome challenges related to mental illness, educated others about the importance of dealing with mental health issues, and helped to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.

VIPs included such prominent mental health advocates as honourary patron Margaret Trudeau, mother of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; former governor general David Johnston and his wife, Sharon; and The Royal’s community ambassador, hockey hero Daniel Alfredsson, with his wife, Bibbi, honourary chair of Run for Women. They brought their oldest boy, Hugo, 15, who attends Ashbury College.

Former Inspiration Award recipient Stephanie Richardson was also among the notable supporters. She co-founded the Do It For Daron (DIFD) youth mental health movement with her husband, former NHLer Luke Richardson, following the tragic suicide of their daughter, Daron, 14, in 2010. Luke is now an assistant coach to Claude Julien with the Canadiens. Stephanie helped secure for the live auction a Habs VIP experience for 12 in Montreal.

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